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So close: Ponies fall just short against GFH

Slow starts are difficult to overcome, and the Havre High boys basketball team experienced that first hand.

Monday night at the Havre High gymnasium, the Central A Blue Ponies played host to the Class AA Great Falls Bison. But in a very tight matchup, the Bison defeated the Ponies 53-52.

"I felt bad for the kids," Havre High head coach Andy Smith said. "They played their hearts out and everybody that we put on the floor was competing. I know we lost, but there are a lot of good things we can take out of this game. The kids just stayed in there and competed hard to the very end and they really fought and gave themselves a chance to win it."

Take away the first eight minutes of the game and the Ponies probably played some of their best basketball of the season.

Starting out, the Ponies went 0-for-5 shooting. And it wasn't until nearly six minutes into the game the Ponies knocked down their first shot. Anfernee Standing Rock hit a mid-range jumper to narrow the Bison's lead to 11-2. But at the end of the quarter the Bison led 18-4. Standing rock had all four first quarter points for HHS.

The second quarter, as well as the remainder of the game for that matter, went a lot better for the Ponies.

On defense especially, the Ponies played very well. The HHS defense played man defense and showed the Bison quite a bit of full court pressure. And in the remaining three quarter the Ponies forced the Bison into 11 turnovers, six in the fourth quarter alone. And after allowing 18 points in the first, the Blue Ponies held Great Falls to 11 in the second, 10 in the third and 14 in the fourth.

"I am really pleased with the kids effort and how they competed," Smith said. "They could have folded the tent after going down 18-4 in the first quarter, but they kept coming back and chipping away, and they did that by playing great defense."

The HHS offense also stepped up in a big way, while they had their hands full with the Bison's full-court pressure.

After a four-point struggle in the first quarter, the Ponies posted 20 in the second, nine in the third and 19 in the fourth as they clawed their way back in to contention. And after trailing by as much as 14, the Ponies moved the ball very well, finding the open man and the easy buckets.

Standing Rock led the offense with 21 points and Logan Connor threw in 19. Standing Rock scored in every quarter and Connor knocked down five treys. Ryan Brandt also sparked the Ponies offense with two treys in the second quarter for his six points, while Ryan Myers pitched in two points on the night and Corderro Strickland added four.

Strickland's four points came late in the fourth quarter and really boosted the Ponies towards their attempted comeback. Strickland also had a fourth quarter steal.

Kade Barsotti, Brandon Smith and Drew Kafka didn't score but also played a big role for the Ponies.

The Ponies had a chance to win in the final seconds, but it just didn't go their way.

With :44 remaining Standing Rock hit a two-point field goal to come within 51-50 of the Bison. Great Falls then knocked down two bonus free throws before Standing Rock grabbed two more points to come within 53-52. But on the ensuing inbounds play the Ponies tried to foul, but the buzzer rang and the game ended with the one-point deficit.

Free throws also played a role. The Bison went knocked down 14-of-19 free throws while the Ponies didn't shoot one free throw.

"It was a whole team effort," Smith said. " And hopefully this adds a little momentum heading into this weekend where we have two conference opponents at home."

This weekend at the Havre High (3-6) gymnasium the Ponies will host the Belgrade Panthers on Friday and the Livingston Rangers on Saturday.

Great Falls 53, Havre 52

Great Falls 18 11 10 14 - 53

Havre 4 20 9 19 – 52

Great Falls – Santino Williams 8, Trey Skunkcap 10, Shyke Smalls 13, Zach Breston 3, Matt Schmitz 11, Trevor Bolton 5, Lane Beyl 3

Havre – Logan Connor 19, Ryan Myers 2, Ryan Brandt 6, Corderro Strickland 4, Anfernee Standing Rock 21.


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